Human-elephant conflict resolution: COPA directs WFC to expedite process
The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation to prepare a formal plan to expedite the implementation of the recommendations made to resolve the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and present a report to Parliament within two months.
COPA also called for a review of the National Policy on the Resolution of the Human- Elephant Conflict in 2006 by a panel of experts when preparing the formal plan.
It was revealed in the COPA Sitting on 9 December 2020, that Sri Lanka has become the country with the highest number of elephant deaths in the world due to the human-elephant conflict. It was also revealed that Sri Lanka has the second highest number of reported human deaths in the world as a result of the on-going human-elephant conflict.
It was pointed out that the Department of Wildlife Conservation cannot be entirely burdened with the responsibility as recommended by the report containing the recommendations of the special committee submitted to it. Emphasis was made on the construction and maintenance of electric fences, maintaining it should be carried out under the collaborative efforts of the relevant Divisional Secretariats, Agrarian Services Department, and the Mahaweli Authority.
The recommendations also contain proposals pertaining to a Community-based village electric fence and an alternative electrical fencing system only applicable during the periods of cultivation.
Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, an expert in research and experience governing the human-elephant conflict, pointed out that traditional methods of chasing elephants, which is currently in operation, have failed for nearly 50 years.
The committee observed that there are areas with elephant fences which are successfully being implemented with the contribution of the community and the respective local stakeholders, and thus this problem can be minimised by adopting such successful methods in other areas as well.
Officials of the Department of Wildlife Conservation said that programmes such as the construction of elephant fences, elephant proof trench digging, building beehives to deter elephants from raiding crops being implemented. While highlighting that the total number of employees in the Department of Wildlife Conservation is close to 1,500 it was disclosed that there are many problems when working at the ground level as there is only a very limited number of employees to work on the fencing process.
It was also discussed that there are reports of villagers in some areas refusing to build the fence as it disrupts the boundary of their land and that in some areas there have been reports of theft of the batteries used for the electric fence.
The committee also drew attention to the recommendations not being carried out pertaining to the said issue. The improper construction of elephant reserves and elephant corridors, content pertaining to the issue not being included to the curriculum by the Ministry of Education and the construction of electric fences without proper standards were pointed out, even the need to execute such matters as soon as possible was also brought up.